POLICY ENGAGEMENT: Tracking Urban-to-Global SDG Infrastructure Linkages at UN High Level Political Forum

June 25, 2018

The Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, together with the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, will host a side event at the 2018 United Nations High Level Political Forum on  Sustainable Development. The event is titled Metrics for Tracking Urban-to-Global SDG Infrastructure Linkages: Science-to-Policy Listening Session on Knowledge Needs and Practice Constraints.”

The event will be held Monday July 9th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm  at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. If you are interested in attending, please register here.

Globally, infrastructure and food supply sectors—sectors that provide energy, water, food, buildings, transportation-communication, waste management services, and public spaces in human settlements—influence our ability to attain almost all of the SDGs. In the context of urban areas, these sectors shape a number of sustainability outcomes within urban boundaries, as indicated in the New Urban Agenda and SDG 11. While a perspective focused on cities’ geographic jurisdictions is helpful to a certain extent for individual cities wishing to advance human and environmental wellbeing, the larger implications of urbanization for planetary sustainability require a view that looks at cities as part of larger systems.

Understanding the full, systemic set of SDG linkages across infrastructure and food sectors from a cross-scale perspective can advance sustainability both locally within cities, as well as regionally and globally.

From a practice perspective, developing transboundary metrics that complement metrics purely focused within a city’s boundary, raises both opportunities and challenges. The objective of this event is to generate an open dialogue about technical best practices, as well as policy and practice opportunities and constraints, for tracking urban-to-global linkages between urban infrastructure/food system choices and SDGs that affect resource use, the economy, inequality, the environment, human health and wellbeing, and the climate.

This session will discuss locally as well as cross-scale relevant metrics for tracking urban sustainability actions focusing on four grounded topic areas that are emblematic of simultaneously local and transboundary challenges:

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions
  2. Air pollution
  3. Water stress
  4. Land expansion and consumption

The goal of the session is to better understand opportunities and constraints in mainstreaming transboundary SDG-infrastructure linkages and concepts as guides for practice, public investment, and policymaking.

For additional information, please contact 


CONVENING: SHC Researchers Attend Prestigious 2018 Industrial Ecology Gordon Research Conference; Focus on Sustainable Development Goals

June 13, 2018

Sustainable Healthy Cities (SHC) researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan attended the 2018 Gordon Research Conference (GRC) and Gordon Research Seminar for Industrial Ecology, held May 19th to the 25th, 2018 in Les Diablerets, Switzerland.

The convening’s theme this year was centered on “The Role of Industrial Ecology in Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals”. The GRC specializes in bringing together international research communities to discuss frontier research in the biological, chemical, physical and engineering sciences. The GRC Industrial Ecology community used this year’s convening to “investigate the newest insights on how Industrial Ecology can contribute to achieving the SDGs,” particularly focusing on “methods and approaches for assessing achievements and exploring synergies and tradeoffs between SDGs.”

SHCN researchers pose for a group photo at the 2018 GRC on Industrial Ecology, swiss alps in the backgroud. Clockwise: SHCN post-doctoral researcher Lin Zeng, SHCN director Anu Ramaswami, SHCN post-doctoral researcher Dana Boyer, and SHCN post-doctoral researcher Kangkang Tong.
Clockwise: SHCN post-doctoral researcher Lin Zeng, SHCN director Anu Ramaswami, SHCN post-doctoral researcher Dana Boyer, and SHCN post-doctoral researcher Kangkang Tong.

Two hundred attendees spent the week discussing topics organized within the themes of the 17 SDGs, and how the field of industrial ecology can aid in achieving these goals. SDG 11 directly addresses sustainable cities and communities, while many additional SDGs are directly shaped by actions and activities that are concentrated in urban areas, such as SDG 9 focused on industry and infrastructure, SDG 12 focused on responsible consumption and production, or SDG 13 focused on climate action.

Anu Ramaswami, SHC Network Director and professor of public affairs and bio-systems engineering at the University of Minnesota, served as this year’s conference co-chair. She will chair the next GRC Industrial Ecology Conference, which will be hosted in the United States in 2020. Stefanie Hellwig of ETH Zurich chaired this year’s conference.

Three SHC Network post-doctoral researchers from the University of Minnesota—Dana Boyer, Kangkang Tong, and Lin Zeng—as well as SHC Network faculty researcher Josh Newell of the University of Michigan, also participated in the conference and seminar.

Post-doctoral researcher Dana Boyer, presented work on, “Diversity of food flows, diets, supply chains and environmental impacts of nine Indian cities.”

Post-doctoral researcher Kangkang Tong presented work on, “Enabling Factors for Low-carbon Transitions of City-Wide District Energy Systems in the U.S.: Linkage with Multiple UN-SDGs.”

And post-doctoral researcher Lin Zeng presented work answering the question, “What is the land use footprint of urban and rural residents in the USA?”

The U.S. National Science Foundation was contributing sponsor to the 2018 Industrial Ecology GRC.